Once you’ve got your target market firmly in your sights, ask yourself this: “what have I got that others haven’t?” Because that’s the crux of it.
The jargon is USP – Unique Selling Point. Without one, you may as well go for the old fashioned trick of calling yourself something beginning with ‘AB…’ so you come up first in the Yellow Pages. Remember those? Thousands of businesses – particularly taxi companies and call-out services – got by on trumping the competition alphabetically. But no-one, apart from my mum (sorry mum), flicks through those doorstop directories anymore. And so you need to trump the competition with a USP instead. Charlie Hinesh, founder of ID1/ The Print Design Co advises doing your research to work out where you sit in a potentially crowded market:
“It’s important initially to observe, as there are many other designers/creatives who potentially have the same offering as you, which means your service may be rapidly diluted within the local industry,”
he says. “Do solid research into what is offered within your local demographic…who are your competitors? Understanding this information will enable you to offer something unique and different, which is crucial to a solid marketing strategy.”
This is where you need to be brutally honest with yourself about what you have that sets you apart, which means considering the question ‘is being good ever good enough’? Probably not, as Patrick Welsh, Marketing Manager for Phoenix Arts warns:
“My problem is that lots of people go into the creative industries thinking ‘I’m a great artist or designer so people will want to buy from me’ but not thinking about their point of difference.
You’ll always need an honest appraisal of who the customer might be and why they might be interested in your product – what alternatives do they have to using you and how can you make your offer more attractive and more interesting?”
Once you’ve established your ‘point of difference’ (and that doesn’t mean “I’m the best” because it takes a long time to prove that one), think about how that difference gives you a firm footing from which to negotiate partnerships, funding and opportunities. Or how you “add value” as founder of dance company Turned On Its Head, Liz Clark quite nicely puts it: “Thinking about your brand helps you know what sets you apart from others,” she says. “It’s really important to know what your ‘proposition’ is and how you add value. In times of cuts to funding avenues and organisations trying hard to make budgets work,
the more flexible you can be without compromising on your artistic vision, the easier and more sustainable partnerships you will develop.”
Those opportunities only exist, however, if you can firmly establish your place in the industry. It may sound obvious but have you done the research to make sure your service or product actually has a market. And if it doesn’t, are you realistic about selling it? As filmmaker Rhys Davies says, this is where the difference between a business and a hobby is most starkly highlighted. “With feature films, make a film that will sell,” says Rhys. “Sounds obvious but most filmmakers don’t look at the markets before they begin to shoot. Research and talk to distributors and sales agents – find out what sells and what doesn’t.
If your film doesn’t sell then you are a hobbyist. Make a film and sell it and you are a part of the film industry.”
That goes for every industry. If the market isn’t there, it takes nothing short of a ground-breaking invention to create one. And if you have created the world’s first indestructible robot capable of managing a family schedule, housework and a rota of three course meals for the bargain price of £50, I look forward to you hiring me to market it to absolutely everyone on the planet.